The lamb burger

Given that the hamburger is really just a thick sandwich, here’s a jazzy riff on that old, old tune. Think we’ve just changed the meat? Read on for a whole new burger experience…

The lamb burger
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To make four lamb burgers, you will need:

  • 800g minced lamb
  • 4 generous rolls, preferably sourdough
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 red onions
  • 4 spring onions 
  • Fresh leaves of rocket and baby spinach
  • Freshly ground cumin (jeera) and coriander seeds (dhania)
  • Mayonnaise • Tomato sauce 
  • Worcester sauce
  • Red Tabasco

You will have already noted the relatively short list of ingredient. Making a lamb burger is not rocket science. What we have here is that dangerous zone for the beginner cook, in which he or she takes risks based on taste, opinion and frontier-style courage. There are two main reasons for doing this. If one is to advance as a cook, experimenting is the only way forward.

Secondly, foods, sauces and spices are all approximations of a sort. Grade, class, quality, cultivar, growing conditions, storage and packaging all add their ambiguities to the mix. Cooks have their brains and senses to rely on. Begin with the spices for the meat. I have relied on tradition with a 50-50 mix of cumin and coriander.

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Start by lightly toasting the whole seeds in a hot, dry frying pan until they darken and become more fragrant. Tip these into a dedicated spice grinder with a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns and reduce the mix to powder. With your hands, mix the fragrant spice dust into the minced lamb. Break the mass into quarters and fashion each into a rounded patty of uniform thickness. Use manual force to press the mince together to form a tight mass. Brush a little olive oil over the surfaces and grill them over the heat source of your choice until they are done exactly the way you like. If you want them at their juicy best, serve them rare.

Cut the rolls in half and toast them lightly. Mix the sauce to these proportions – 60% mayonnaise, 30% tomato sauce, 10% Worcester sauce as well as a generous dash of Red Tabasco. You may care to replace the Worcester with soya sauce. Coarsely chop the onions and tomatoes and mix them together in a bowl. At this stage, chilli fans may wish to add one or two little pele-pele (bird’s eye) red chillies to the mix, pips and all.

Assembly time. Lay the bottom half of the lightly toasted roll on a warm plate. Spread a thin layer of the sauce and place the freshly grilled lamb patty on it. Generously spoon the sauce, followed by whole baby spinach leaves and the rocket. Then crown with the other half of the roll. A word of warning – this delicious, drippy meal is messy to eat. You might consider using a knife and fork, notwithstanding that this is ‘hand-held’ food.